Reply To: Empiricism

  • Encyclios

    May 10, 2023 at 12:46 PM

    Method and sources of knowledge

    Empiricism affirms that knowledge is the acceptance of sensory data in their concrete and particular immediacy. In human knowledge we therefore always start from the particular: there are no universal notions that condition the movement of thought, but the universality of the notions – obtained through generalizations – is only a point of arrival, an achievement. The method of empiricism is therefore induction (by definition, induction is the logical procedure by which one passes from the consideration of particular cases to a universal conclusion.)

    Empiricism does not recognize any knowledge that does not derive from an immediate contact of the subject with the object. The primary source of all knowledge is the empirical data which takes the name of sensations, perceptions, impressions, but also of ideas.

    Stoics and Epicureans argued that external objects leave a “footprint” through sensations in the mind of man and used this term to highlight the receptive and passive aspects of the subject. To repeat St. Thomas Aquinas, “there is nothing in the intellect that was not previously in the senses”. This concept was also taken up by Locke and states that the man knows and elaborates on the abstract level (in the intellect) only what he has experienced on the level of sensitivity.

    Broadening the discussion beyond the problem of knowledge, it can be said that empiricism inserts and solves the intellectual and spiritual life of man in the set of contacts and relationships that it has with the outside world: Hume explains all the feelings of man (including religious ones) in very close dependence on sensitive experiences; in evolutionary positivism, the genesis of human intelligence is explained by environmental conditions.

    Empiricism limits the realm of knowledge to empirical data and denies the possibility of going further, thus denying the possibility of metaphysics (part of the philosophy that deals with the theoretical aspects and the absolute values of reality, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, identity, time, and space, regardless of the data of experience). If all our ideas derive from sensitive experience, none of them can lead us beyond their content. Thought can only affirm what falls under the senses, that is, what is relative to the subject it perceives.

    The idea of substance understood as “what exists in and of itself” has no counterpart in a given experience, nor is it the conclusion of a rational demonstration, because existence gives itself, it does not prove itself. It is only a metaphysical proposition that contrasts with the demands of empiricism. The substance thus becomes a simple mental construction, to which no data corresponds.